Construction Sustainability Begins with Design

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For successful implementation of sustainable construction practices, education is important. The unknown can make people apprehensive. Construction innovations are typically implemented on an adoption curve like anything else in society at large. The slow adopters on the scale may have the attitude, “We’ve never done anything like that, so it can’t be good.”

As part of the education process, company leaders may talk with staff about promoting sustainability. But it ultimately takes more than talk to make a difference in the industry. Sustainability goals and initiatives need to extend beyond the boardroom and be put to use on jobsites, beginning with design. Still, there can be debate about how to put technology to use.

Image: aranca.com

Sustainability takes a building’s entire lifecycle into consideration. When it comes to building a sustainable future, the technology is already available to design and build structures in a less wasteful way – ensuring the optimal use of materials, labor, nonrenewable natural resources, and fuel. The ultimate goal is to produce and use efficiently, then reuse when that point in the lifecycle arrives.


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Digital tools already exist that will give companies the ability to create carbon-friendly designs. They provide the capacity to envision and opt for new choices. Historically, construction decisions have been cost-based. Today’s technology innovations enable decision makers to factor data into their decisions so they can adjust plans to meet a customer’s sustainable goals without forfeiting cost savings.

Image: Technavio.org

Some of those technology innovations enable:

  • Advance planning . . . By designing for sustainability at the beginning of a project using a building information modeling (BIM) process, companies can build more in less time while achieving the customer’s targets. In addition, clashes and issues can be identified during planning, avoiding wasteful rework on the jobsite.
  • Collaboration . . . Remote collaboration in the cloud, for instance with products on Autodesk Construction Cloud, enables managers and other team members to reduce travel to jobsites, reducing fuel consumption. Everyone on the project can stay informed about progress.
  • Smart methods . . . Data-driven construction methods, including the use of a single source of truth in the cloud, can improve both project planning and management. Smart construction methods help minimize waste by optimizing labor, energy, water, equipment, and tool usage. For instance, site and safety conditions and progress might be monitored using drones and autonomous robotic equipment.   
  • Standardization . . . As with Design for Assembly (DfA) in the manufacturing industry, by making certain construction processes uniform, a company can reduce the number of components and the types of materials needed on a project, reducing waste that often results from one-offs.

Beginning with design, a sustainable future is already within the grasp of the construction industry worldwide. We can produce, use and reuse efficiently by using constantly-evolving construction technologies to design, build and use structures in a less wasteful way.


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